It is 50 years since Northampton was designated a new town and began luring Londoners to settle in the East Midlands.
A jingle was written to seduce potential residents into coming titled 60 Miles by Road or Rail and now it has inspired a play.
The new theatre project is being launched from 1pm at the Umbrella Pavilion on the Racecourse tomorrow and both documents and celebrates this phase of the town’s development.
There will be a display of books and memorabilia associated with Northampton’s recent history, a performance by cellist Milena inspired by Northamptonshire folk tunes and then director Andy Routledge will give an overview of 60 Miles by Road or Rail.
People will then be invited to take part in workshops so their stories can be part of the final performance at Royal & Derngate on Friday September 28 at 7.45pm.
The press statement by the team says:
It’s 1968 and Northampton is on the verge of great change: it is becoming a ‘New Town’. The Northampton Development Corporation has been established. An advertising jingle is soon to be re-released as a pop record. But as thousands of families flock in from London, some are concerned that Northampton’s identity is starting to slip away…
Directed by Andy Routledge and created with a company of Northampton artists, 60 MILES BY ROAD OR RAIL is a new play that brings Northampton’s past and present crashing together to celebrate our town at a time when austerity threatens to pull it apart.
When returning home to Northampton last year, Routledge set about creating a theatrical event that unashamedly looked inwards to Northampton; a town historic for distribution and looking-outwards due to its central location.
“Repeatedly referred to as ‘too big to be small and too small to be big’, Northampton had failed to regenerate and was facing an identity crisis.”
He assembled a new company of 10 local professional artists from a wide range of theatrical practices and set about listening to the experiences of over 100 local people through heritage events, workshops and meetings in pubs and cafes to create a new production made with, by and for Northampton.
“Whilst we were doing this” Routledge points out, “Northamptonshire’s local authority went bust. Austerity measures mixed with mismanagement by local and central government led to insurmountable cuts to core services, extraordinary meetings, closed libraries and protests on the streets.
Northamptonshire was front-page news in the New York Times: the canary in the coalmine for austerity politics. A Middle England county in chaos.”
Inspired by Peter Cheeseman’s Stoke documentary theatre method and the work of James Graham, 60 MILES BY ROAD OR RAIL has evolved into a resounding state of the nation piece. It offers a vibrant retelling of the past 50 years of Northamptonian experiences and asks what it means for our individual and collective sense of belonging when our home undergoes crisis, and what we’re going to do about it.”
Andy Routledge (Ventoux by 2Magpies National Tour ★★★★ Independent, Scotsman), Joshua Val Martin (Bruntwood Prize For Playwriting 2017 Special Commendation), Helen Crevel (Best Actress Golden Skull International Film Awards), Subika Anwar-Khan (Julie, National Theatre), Jo Blake Cave (collaborated with National Trust, National Theatre, British Council, and guest artist at Leeds Lieder Festival 2016)
Supported by Generate: Royal & Derngate’s new Artist Development Programme, in partnership with Warts and All Theatre, Umbrella Fair Organisation and Northampton Past. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England, Travers Foundation and Unity Theatre Trust.
Project Website 60milesbyroadorrail.co.uk